Ponting relief after nervy win
Captain Ricky Ponting admitted he could hardly watch as Australia secured their place in the ICC Champions Trophy semi-finals with a nervy last-ball win against Pakistan at Centurion.
Australia restricted Pakistan to 205 for six on a two-paced SuperSport Park wicket and looked on course for a simple victory when they were 140 for two in reply.
A stunning collapse, however, saw Ponting’s side lose six wickets for just 47 runs and leave Australia in danger of falling short of the win they needed to progress.
With the pressure mounting and Pakistan’s seamers finding some reverse swing late on, tailenders Brett Lee and Nathan Hauritz defiantly scrambled the 19 runs they required for victory from the 25 balls remaining.
A scampered bye ensured the two-wicket win from the final ball and secured a semi-final date with England at Centurion on Friday.
“I was chewing my fingersnails up there for the last little bit,” Ponting admitted at the post-match presentation.
“That ended up being closer than I thought was possible. We snuck across the line so we’ve got England now here in a semi-final in a couple of days time.”
Australia dominated England to win the recently-completed NatWest Series 6-1, however Andrew Strauss’ team have since been resurgent in South Africa to claim their place in the last four.
Ponting admitted he was wary of England despite the lop-sided nature of their recent games.
“We’ve just come from a really good series against them over there, but it’s different conditions here to what we confronted over there and they’ve been playing some pretty good cricket of late,” Ponting said.
“We need to get back to the drawing board a little bit and talk about what went wrong in the last part with our batting this afternoon and make sure we don’t do that again on Friday.
“As the ball got older it reversed a bit at the end and spun a bit for the spinners too so we were pretty lucky we restricted them to that total. I thought the bowlers in the second half of our bowling innings particularly did a good job.”
Mike Hussey was the only player to pass 50 as the batsmen struggled to play their strokes on an inconsistent surface.
Hussey made 64, from 87 balls, before he was bowled by a Rana Naved-ul-Hasan yorker as Australia’s slump took hold.
“I was determined to see it through to the end so I was disappointed walking off,” the left-hander said. “But thankfully Brett Lee and Nathan Hauritz showed good composure at the end and got us over the line.”
Pakistan had already qualified for the last four before today’s game and, while they missed the chance to top Group A, they will now travel to Johannesburg to play New Zealand on Saturday.
That is a prospect captain Younus Khan is content with as the Asian nation go in search of their second ICC tournament victory of the year after winning the World Twenty20 in June.
“I’m always happy whether you play England, Australia or any team in semi-finals or final it doesn’t matter,” he said. “If you play good cricket then you are the winner.”